The World Food Programme (WFP) is receiving $119 million from the US Department of Agriculture to provide school meals in five countries in Asia and Africa. But, Nigeria is excluded from the lifeline.
Some N679 million is currently being spent on the school feeding programme in Nigeria daily, yet many under-five children in the country are still malnourished, with COVID-19 pandemic compounding the problem.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had, in 2018, said the Home Grown School Feeding Programme was aimed at increasing school enrollment and tackling malnutrition in children.
“At current numbers, the Federal Government spends more than $1.8 million every day on the National School Feeding Programme”, Osinbajo had said.
While he also said $183 million had so far been invested in the programme, Osinbajo was quoted as saying more than nine million primary school pupils were benefitting across 26 states where the programme had taken effect.
The UN food agency, however, says in Nigeria, 95,000 women are employed as part of the national school feeding programme.
According to WFP, a 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren, some 310 million, in low- and middle income countries eat a daily meal at school. India now feeds more than 100 million children; Brazil 48 million; China 44 million; South Africa and Nigeria each more than nine million.
‘’The last ten years have seen a growing global consensus that school feeding programmes generate a lasting impact that can shape the future of a nation’’, WFP says.
A landmark publication developed by it and the editorial team of Disease Control Priorities, and published by the World Bank – Re-imagining School Feeding: A HighReturn Investment in Human Capital and Local Economies (Oct. 2018) – gives compelling evidence of the multiple benefits of investing in school feeding programmes.
School feeding is increasingly recognised as a major investment in both human capital and in local economies which has accelerated country-led demand.
It is seen as playing an important role not only in emergency contexts but also in social stability, peace-building and national development. Re-imagining School Feeding calls for increased investment targeted at the ages of 5-21, where new evidence shows the maximum impact on developing human capital potential.
School feeding goes far beyond the plate of food, producing high returns in the following critical areas: education and gender equality, health and nutrition; social protection and local economies and agriculture.
However, the Director of WFP’s Washington office, Jon Brause, says: “Yet again, USDA demonstrates real leadership in reaching school-age children in the developing world with proper nutrition. In many countries, school meals are the only food some children receive each day, so we are enormously grateful for USDA’s support.”
The United States provides school meals funding through a competitive award process managed annually by USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Programme.
The latest awards, which take effect this month, see WFP’s programmes in Cote d’Ivoire, Laos, Nepal and Rwanda receiving $25 million each, while WFP’s programme in Bangladesh will receive $19 million.
The awards, in cash and in kind, enable WFP to feed about 841,000 children under agreements of three to five years. This amounts to an important bridge for these five governments, giving them temporary support until they can establish their own sustainable, national school feeding programs.
McGovern-Dole has provided meals to classrooms in the developing world since 2003, contributing significantly to students’ learning, health and nutrition.
It has long been one of WFP’s largest funding sources for school feeding activities, including take-home rations when schools have closed due to Covid-19. Nearly 370 million children missed out on school meals so far this year, including 13 million receiving WFP ones.
“This support is yet another testament to the strength of WFP’s school feeding activities worldwide – and it comes at a critical time,” says Carmen Burbano, WFP’s Rome-based director of School Feeding.
WFP’s school feeding programmes span 61 countries and are a key social safety net for poor and vulnerable households. In 2019, WFP provided school meals to 17.3 million school children, and helped governments reach an additional 39 million children.
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.